Monday, May 20, 2024

What Is a Complete Blood Count?

drawing blood

What Is a CBC?

A complete blood count (CBC) is a routine blood test. A CBC measures the levels of three types of cells in your blood: erythrocytes, or red blood cells; leukocytes, or white blood cells; and thrombocytes, or platelets.

A CBC also measures the levels of hemoglobin and hematocrit, which are proteins in your red blood cells, as well as the level of plasma, which is the liquid portion of your blood.

Why Is a CBC Important?

A CBC can give your doctor important information about your overall health and whether you have an infection or other conditions. For example, if you have an infection, you may have more white blood cells than usual. If you have cancer or another disease, you may have fewer red blood cells than normal.

Some Conditions That May Cause Abnormal Results on a CBC Include:

Anemia: Anemia is a condition in which there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. This can cause fatigue and other symptoms.

Infection: An increase in white blood cell counts may indicate that you have an infection.

Leukemia: Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the production of white blood cells. Abnormal results on a CBC may be one of the first signs of leukemia.

Certain medications or treatments: Some medications or treatments can cause low platelet counts or low white blood cell counts.

How Is a CBC Done?

A CBC is usually done with a small amount of blood from a vein in your arm. The process is similar to getting a shot. First, a healthcare professional will clean your skin with an antiseptic and wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to make the vein swell with blood.

Next, they will insert a needle into the vein and draw out a small amount of blood into a tube. Once the tube is full, they will remove the needle and apply pressure to the area for several minutes to stop any bleeding. The entire process usually takes less than 10 minutes.

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